Methane Bursts May Have Helped Maintain Liquid Water On Mars

methane bursts on the shaded side of mars
Methane bursts might have helped the Martian atmosphere maintain liquid water on its surface.

A new study believes to have found an explanation for Mars’s having periods of warmer and wetter climate. According to research, methane bursts, emerging from beneath the surface of the planet, may have helped thaw and maintain liquid water on the Red Planet.

Research found that the fourth planet from the Sun might have once been covered with anything from rivers to lakes. It might even have held seas as well as oceans. These are believed to have ‘populated’ the now Red Planet during its first billion years of existence, in the so-called “Noachian period”.

However, the next part of the planet’s history, the Hesperian Period, saw it become a cold and dry place. Scientists believe that it was at the end of this period that Mars lost all of the atmosphere that was helping maintain liquid water on its surface.

Methane Bursts Detected by Studying Hesperian Rocks

This new study, led by Edwin Kite, from the University of Chicago, is based on an analysis of Hesperian Rocks. Previous studies on targeted on them indicated that the planet’s climate was sometimes warm enough that it allowed lakes not only to form but also last over 3,000 years.

However, these failed to find a cause capable of explaining the duration of such events. Now, according to this recent research, the existence and presence of these lakes on the surface of Mars might get explained by methane bursts.

Namely, the study team pointed out that methane, a potent greenhouse gas, is hiding under the Martian surface. The rotation of the planet’s axis is believed to have led to regular temperature changes, which then helped with the formation of clathrates.

This is methane trapped in ice changes, which, if destabilized, can then explode and release their methane components.

“The amount of clathrate that we envisage breaking down over a geologically brief interval — 10,000 years or less — if spread evenly over the surface area of Mars, would be about the thickness of a dinner plate,” said the study lead.

Such outbursts might have helped raise the planet’s temperatures by even 9 to 18 degrees Fahrenheit.

Detailed study findings of these methane bursts are available in a paper in the journal Nature Geoscience.

Image Source: Pixabay 


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